Thursday, October 28, 2004

Pilobolus 2004
Last Thursday, I saw Pilobolus Dance Theater for the third time. Every time I see them, they never fail to be amazing. Thanks to some national dance conference that was being held at MSU last week, Pilobolus was performing actually in East Lansing, on the MSU campus, no less. Very convenient. This is noteworthy, because nearly everything exciting in Michigan happens in Ann Arbor, and I get tired of either driving over there or missing out on things. This time, Matt and Heather actually came over here from Ann Arbor to do something other than just visit me!

The only thing that marred the performance for me was the bratty little girl sitting two chairs down from me. Her first words were, "These seats are terrible! Why aren't we down there? I don't want to sit here." In the space of about 5 minutes, she had escalated to, "These seats are terrible! Why did we even bother to come?" and then started to cry.

Now, I grant you, we were not right at the foot of the stage or anything, but the seats were okay. The first time I saw Pilobolus, I saw them in the National Theater in Santiago de Chile. This theater is rather defined by it's age and European-ness, which amounts to it being a very tall cylinder with many balconies. I was in the third balcony up, almost behind a pillar, and the dancers looked very, very small. This still did nothing to spoil my enjoyment of the performance.

The second time I saw them was the next year in Grinnell, in an auditorium small enough to give everyone a seat more or less close to the stage. Comparing the two perspectives was very interesting, because two of the pieces they performed in Grinnell were ones I had seen in Chile. I feel I have now rounded out my Pilobolus-viewing by having seen them at a middle distance this time.

On to the performance itself. They did four pieces, but I think my favorites were the middle two. The second one, "Night of the Dark Moon," seemed very appropriate for the coming Halloween holiday. It started out with a couple appearing to meet illicitly in what I interpreted as the woods, probably because of the mist on the stage. After they fall asleep, though, the three soldiers who had been on stage earlier for no apparent purpose re-enter leading a large white cocoon hanging from the ceiling by a pulley. The person in the cocoon began to move, first leaning forward so their silhouette pressed out through the sheet, then freeing their arms, which were clothed in shocking crimson, including gloved hands, against the white sheet and black background. When the cocoon was lowered to the floor, the person climbed out and revealed itself to be a woman, in a crimson frock coat and a black hood/mask rendering her face completely featureless. Very creepy. Her movements reminded me frequently of an evil frog as she squatted on the shoulders of the standing male lover and appeared to suck his soul out. She also captured the female lover's soul, and tried to take her away in the cocoon. I don't think anyone was quite sure how to interpret this dance.

After the intermission, there was a duet that I'd actually seen at Grinnell, called "Symbiosis," in which the two dancers use mostly animal-based movements to convincingly portray two natural organisms learning to live in concert. They start out being surprised at finding themselves apparently attached to one another, and then chase each other all over the stage, using lots of weight exchange and interesting body contortions as they push away and spring back together. It's a very fun and happy piece, definitely much different atmosphere from the one before it.

The other two pieces of the evening, "The Brass Ring" and "Megawatt," were of course also good, but my memory of them is sufficiently overwhelmed by the other two pieces that I find myself without anything to write about them now that it is a week later.

If you ever, ever, ever have a chance to see Pilobolus, take it. You won't regret it, and you'll get to say that you’ve seen one of the greatest things going on in modern dance.

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